Apolo Anton Ohno
Two Controversial Medals
Short-track races are often won not by the fastest skater, but by the skater most skilled at avoiding the sport's frequent crashes, and Ohno's first event at the 2002 Olympics, the 1,000 meter, was no different. In the final heat Ohno was leading only meters from the finish when four racers tangled up and all crashed. Australian skater Steven Bradbury had been in last place, far enough behind all of the other skaters that he was able to avoid them and win his country's first Winter Olympic gold ever. Ohno crawled across the finish line for a silver, rode to the podium in a wheelchair, and then went to get stitches to close a gash on his thigh where he had collided with another skater's blade. Ohno declined to request a rerace and accepted his misfortune with a shrug, saying, "That is short track."
Four days later Ohno raced in the final heat of the 1,500-meter event. He finished second, behind South Korean Kim Dong-Sung, but Kim was disqualified for cross-tracking, defined as illegally skating in front of another skater (in this case Ohno) to prevent him from passing, and Ohno was awarded the gold. This decision, although well received by the largely American crowd, raised a fuss in the rest of the world. Kim threw his South Korean flag to the ice and stormed out, and another racer, Italy's Fabio Carta, suggested that "we should use a rifle on Ohno." Enough threatening e-mails, some of which referred to the 1,000-meter crash as well, were sent to Ohno through the U.S. Olympic Committee Web site to crash its server for nine hours. The South Koreans threatened to boycott the closing ceremonies and to sue, but the International Skating Union refused to reconsider its decision.
Ohno failed to win a medal in his final two events, the 500-meter and the 5,000-meter relay. He was disqualified during the semifinals of the 500 meter for pushing another racer, Japan's Satoru Terao, when he tried to pass him, and the American relay team finished fourth after one member, Rusty Smith, caught his skate on a lane marker block and fell.
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